Gentle Fist, Will of Fire
Hello, my fans! I am so very sorry about not updating in, like, a month-- school fucks my entire schedule up the… ah… never mind. Yeah. So. (Sorry about the unexpected vulgarity, people. School can do that to a person, you know.)
Anyway, I would like to present chapter eight of Gentle Fist, Will of Fire! Yay! Kudos!
Disclamer: I don't own Naruto or any of the other characters featured in the anime/manga, but I do own Shinji and the other Amegakure nin (And yes, we all know I don't even own the first chappie!!) No copyright infringement was intended when I wrote this fiction.
I stood in the large town square, amazed by what I was seeing. We stood on a floor made of thick capable wood. All around us small houses jutted up from the floor, made of the same wood. Scantly scattered around the houses were the largest trees we Konoha nin had ever seen before, coming up through the wooden floor from apparently thousands of feet below. We are thousands of feet above the ground… Just the thought of it was enough to make me queasy, and I swayed a little bit. I felt a steadying hand on my arm and I looked left to see a smiling Lee looking down at me, a sympathetic look in his eyes.
"Are you alright, Sakura-chan?" He asked, his voice so low I had to strain my ears to hear it. His tone was comforting, calming, and I found myself smiling serenely back at him.
I nodded at him, our distance from the ground of no importance to me while I stared into his soothing eyes, goofy as they were. "I'm just fine, Lee."
"It's been a long time since I've been here," Kakashi said, walking up to stand on my right. His voice was quiet, and as he looked around at the small village a hint of sadness crept into his tone. "It's still as barren as ever, I see…"
"Hai, it is," Nomura-san agreed, coming to stand behind Kakashi sensei and I. Viewing his village with a hint of pained remembrance in his eyes, he continued, "Since the village is so hard to find, and since most of our Jonin are either missing-nin or dead, any sense of community or unity has all but burned out. The only thing that keeps this village tied down is the children, I think." As he spoke, two boys, looking about seven each, ran from behind one house towards another. Seeing the group that had just entered into the village, the kids redirected their chase towards them, wide grins on their faces.
"Nomura-sama! Nomura-sama!" They cried, both skidding to a stop before the redheaded ninja. The one with darker hair swung a cobalt blue umbrella around in the air. "Look, Nomura-sama! I got my umbrella today! Isn't it so cool?!"
Hai, Kenji, it is," Shinji replied, kneeling down to get eye level with the two of them.
The lighter haired one, feeling somewhat left out, jumped up and down a few times until Shinji looked at him. "But, but, Nomura-sama! I'm gonna get mine in a couple of weeks when I turn seven!" He squealed shrilly.
Shinji patted him on the head, grinning slightly at him. "Whoa, whoa, Kai, I hear you," He said. "What color are you gonna pick, hmm?"
That question put stars in the boy's eyes. "Dark green, like yours, Nomura-sama!"
The other boy became jealous of the attention Kai was getting, so he chased him off, swinging his umbrella at him and yelling intelligibly.
"They sure are hyped up about those umbrellas, aren't they?" Naruto asked from somewhere behind me.
Shinji stood up, nodding and grinning. "Hai. As you now know, Naruto, these umbrellas are used to keep our shuriken. Whenever we open them up with the right amount of force, BAM! Six shuriken fly out at you."
"That boy doesn't have shuriken in his umbrella, does he?" I asked, wincing as I saw Kenji whack Kai over the head with his blue umbrella.
Shinji chuckled. "No, Sakura. The children aren't taught how to put shuriken in their umbrellas until they take the specified class in the academy."
As I breathed a sigh of relief, Kiba looked to the sky behind us, spreading his arms wide. "Man, that sunlight really hits the spot! I think my clothes are starting to dry out. How 'bout you, Akamaru?"
The drenched white dog barked in agreement.
We all laughed, and Shinji began to walk. "Here, follow me, everyone. We'll go to my house and get you all out of those damp clothes, and I'll dry them. Then you can rest and explore the village, if you want. There isn't much to see here, as you all already know, but it's something none of you Chunin have ever seen before, correct? A village in the trees…"
After a while of walking through the rain soaked village, we approached one of the larger buildings, one that looked like it would be able to hold the entire village… or an entire clan. It was secluded from the other houses, with more trees surrounding it than the others. There was also a small wooden fence surrounding the estate, with a small gate allowing entrance.
Glancing around the grounds, I was surprised. There was actually some decoration here. Before the house on either side of the small steps leading onto the porch there were two small gardens, and inside them were some of those exotic flowers we'd seen earlier in the trip. Purple, red, yellow and white jumped out at my eyes from the gardens, and I smiled at the well cared for plants. My smile quickly faded as I looked up at the house.
It was a two story building, wide and dark and foreboding. I was faintly reminded of the time I'd walked up into the Uchiha clan section of Konoha, looking for Sasuke. It was desolate and quiet, faintly smelling of iron. It chilled my heart knowing that I would have to live in a place like that for who knew how long. Unconsciously I stopped, staring up at the big building, my mind and my heart trailing back to a certain dark haired shinobi…
"Eep!" I cried, turning around. There, in the entrance to one of the old, broken down houses, was Sasuke. His charcoal eyes pierced my very soul, and I was chilled by the look in his eyes. He almost looked angry, and I felt myself become very small under his gaze.
"What are you doing here?"
I tried shaking off my initial shock and fear, telling myself it was only Sasuke. There was no need to worry about him. It was just Sasuke, right? That look I saw in his eyes must have simply been a trick of the light. The sun was really bright, after all. I tried to speak, and still my tongue was stuck to the roof of my mouth.
"This isn't exactly somewhere I imagine you'd enjoy being. After all, my entire clan was slaughtered on these grounds, you know."
That was enough to get me talking. "Uh-- I-- j-just--" Ugh, why are you so STUPID, Sakura?! My inner self roared, her fists shaking at me. This is SASUKE you are talking to here! PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER, YOU BAKA!! "Ka-Kakashi sensei wanted to talk to all of us. Something about a mission," I said, feeling a rush of relief as I began to speak. Maybe I didn't look as stupid in front of Sasuke as I thought I did.
Unfortunately, he just stared at me, his dark eyes as apathetic as always. "Fine. We should go, then." He walked away from the building, closing the door gently behind him. He turned away from me, then cast me a glance over his shoulder. "The training grounds?"
I nodded, and said "Hai" in a small voice, but Sasuke had already jumped up onto the roof of the building he'd been inside and then off of it, heading towards the village gate. I breathed a sigh of disappointment as Inner Sakura screamed Cha! He LOOKED at us, Sakura! Do you know what this means?!
Ignoring my inner voice, I took one last glance around the Uchiha place before following Sasuke in the direction of the forest. I was glad to be away from the place, but I was still curious as to why Sasuke had been in that one building. Did that…. Was that building where he used to live with his parents?
"Hmm?" I asked, snapping back into reality. Lee was waving a hand before my face, a concerned expression on his countenance; beside him, Hinata and Kakashi stood, wearing the same expression. I waved them away, saying "I'm fine, I'm fine" and I walked past them and up the stairs of the mansion, where the others were waiting. I didn't think Lee believed me, but I wasn't going to worry about that now.
"Okay," Nomura-san said, pulling out a key from underneath his dark green poncho. "Let's hurry inside. Take off your sandals at the door, I'll get to those later, and then follow me. I'll take you all to the bathhouses, surely you'll want to shower after that long trip…"
After we finished our respective baths, Naruto, Hinata and I explored the house. It was 'freakin' humongous', as Naruto described it. Three bathrooms, one downstairs and two upstairs. Four bedrooms plus a guest room, three downstairs and two on the upper level. We met Shino and the other two halfway through our search, and we continued on together.
Downstairs we walked into the kitchen. It was also 'humongous', bigger than I'd ever seen. The counter, a dark reddish brown, wound all the way around the room, leaving only room for the stove and the refrigerator. A wide window opened up behind the sink, allowing someone to have a wonderful view into the courtyard before the house. Naruto looked through all of the cabinets above the counters for ramen, and, finding none, he cleared out an entire shelf and stuffed his own packages into it, filling it up and making his backpack look quite deflated. Leaving the abandoned contents of the cleared shelf on the counter, a satisfied blonde led the way out of the kitchen.
Afterwards, we met with Shinji, who showed us to our rooms. "Naruto and Lee will have the bedroom here, off the kitchen," He said, gesturing to the room. The two boys took their bags into the room. Taking a peek into the door, I saw that the room was pretty big, too. There were already two mattresses laid side by side on the floor, and a dresser was on either side of the room. A long mirror stood against the wall to the left, and across the room from it was a large window looking upon the courtyard. It was painted a light blue, and both Naruto and Lee looked quite pleased when they walked out.
"Kiba and Shino will have the bedroom over here, right before the stairs, and Kakashi will sleep in the one across the hall," Shinji continued, leading us into the hall. He pointed towards a closed door on the right, and then another on the left. Kiba and Shino entered into the door on the right, and the rest of us were led up the stairs by Shinji.
Up on the top landing, we turned and walked down the long hallway until we reached yet another closed door, the last one in the hall. "This is my bedroom," He said, knocking on the door. "You can roam anywhere in this house besides this room. No matter what, don't come in here, okay?"
The four of us nodded simultaneously, each with the same thought crossing our brainwaves.
What is in there that is so important?
Silently, he led us back along the hallway, and then stopped us in front of a door halfway between the ends of the hall. "This," He said, opening the door. "is your room. You can go on ahead and get unpacked, if you want. I'm gonna make some supper, and it'll be a while."
He, Naruto and Lee left, and Hinata and I began unpacking our meager belongings. Our room was almost exactly like Naruto and Lee's, except it was painted a pale yellow instead of blue. As I finished unpacking my undergarments into my dresser, I watched Hinata tenderly tuck the pajamas she'd received from Naruto into the top drawer. She took the picture of her and the blonde on the Hokage monuments and sat it on the top of her own dresser. She closed the drawers gently, then realized I was watching. She blushed, and I smiled.
"It's alright, Hinata, don't be embarrassed," I whispered, and she smiled back. We were then joined by the other four, and the six of us walked back downstairs, opting to walk around the village while Shinji made supper. As soon as we got outside, Naruto's stomach rumbled, and he couldn't stand it.
Eyes ablaze, the blonde gave us all a bloodthirsty grin. "Let's go see if they have any ramen shops here!"
"But Naruto, Nomura-sama's making dinner," I replied, putting my hands on my hips and frowning. Naruto would have none of it, and we finally found ourselves standing around a table while Naruto read off of a menu. We were about to give up when he put a finger to the paper.
"THERE!!" He cried, grinning triumphantly. "See? I told you they would have ramen here somewhere."
Sighing, I sat down beside my teammate, knowing that if he liked this store's ramen we would be here for a while. The others took my incentive, and a jittery waitress who looked barely older than us came to our table. Her dark brown hair was tied back in a low bun, and she poked her pinkie fingers together as she nervously asked for our order.
"We don't want to eat anything," I said, giving Hinata a quick glance to see if she'd noticed the girl's fingers. Then I pointed at the blonde, grinning stupidly at me. "Except him. He wants to order lord knows how many cups of ramen."
Looking satisfied, Naruto laid the menu on the table. "I'll have one cup of miso ramen, please."
The waitress stood and stared at Naruto, looking shocked. This made all of us tense, except Naruto, who was still grinning stupidly. She then realized what she was doing and quickly apologized. "Oh-- G-gomenasai, gomenasai. I-I apologize for asking, but-- are you all tourists?"
Kiba frowned, and opened his mouth to snap at the waitress.
Hinata beat him to the punch. "Hai, we are. Our friend is familiar with this place, and we decided we'd come and see the sights. Why do you ask?"
The girl blushed slightly as she answered. "A-ano... The people of th-this village never order r-ramen, even though i-it's on the menu. I-I keep telling papa-san to t-take it off, but he insists k-keeping it on there. He says t-that my ramen would ch-cheer any tourists day."
"You cook and waitress the place?" I asked, eyes wide. I couldn't imagine such a small and timid girl doing so much work around this small shop.
Her face turned a deeper shade of red. "H-hai. W-with so many of o-our people coming up m-missing or d-dead--" She said the last word in a near whisper-- "there's n-no one else in the village wh-who'll lend anyone else a helping h-hand." She gazed out onto the wooden street, a hint of sadness in her eyes. "Papa-san said the village d-didn't al-always used to be like this…"
She shook her head. "Gomenasai, I'll get that ramen for you." And with that, she shuffled back to the kitchen and out of our sight.
"Man… This village is in sad shape," Kiba muttered, leaning in so that only us at the table could hear him.
"I know! To think the people of this village never order ramen!" Naruto hissed, eyes wide.
"Naruto! Kiba wasn't talking about that, you baka!" I cried, whopping him over the head. As tears of pain began to pour out of his eyes, I was suddenly distracted by someone who was standing outside of the restaurant. His back was turned, and he wore some sort of strange white robe. One look at the purple rope tied around his waist and the dark, spiky hair on his head told me all I needed to know.
I stood up abruptly, startling everyone around the table. I began to walk out of the store, and I was accompanied by many different voices.
"Hey, Sakura, where you goin'?"
"Hey, Sakura-chan! I didn't get my ramen yet, we can't go!"
"I'll be back in a minute guys, I've gotta go get some fresh air," I called behind me, not looking back. I got back many jumbled responses, the most prominent one being "Fine, but I'm not leaving 'til I try their ramen". I bent under the small cloth that hung over the entrance of the shop and walked over towards where I'd seen the man from inside. He still stood there, back to me, staring down a dark alleyway between the wooden houses on either side. There were few people on the street, but none of them were looking in his direction.
"Sas-- Sasu--" I couldn't get my throat unstuck. As I jogged across the street, I felt other people's eyes on me. I just hoped the same people were looking at him too. That would prove that I wasn't going insane.
I had almost reached him when he turned to me, and when he looked at me I stopped. It was almost as if his gaze commanded me to halt in my tracks, and though I tried my hardest to move forward again the strain was futile.
He smiled at me, his usually dark eyes ablaze with the Sharingan. "Well, Sakura… Have we figured out what this new Avenger is meant to do now?" Not waiting for an answer, he turned his head back towards the alley. "He is meant for the same fate as I… Nothing you can do will stop that. Gomenasai, Sakura…"
"W-w-WAIT!!" I cried, finally getting my throat unstuck. I reached for him, able to move once again, but he dissipated before my eyes. I fell through the air that he'd occupied just seconds earlier, feeling the ever prominent gazes of others.
Shaking my head, I stood back up. I felt like screaming at the gawkers on the street. Instead I calmly brushed my hands off onto my pale pink skirt and began to turn back towards the restaurant, but something stopped me. A thought crossed my mind, and it made me turn back towards the alley and walk into it, my eyes split. Why would Sasuke look back into the alley if he hadn't meant to give me a clue?
At the end of the dark alley, I kneeled down, almost unable to believe my eyes. Sitting alone on the ground, a single potted flower occupied the dark place. Leaning towards the plant, I realized that it was a rose, but it certainly didn't look well cared for. It was somewhat wilted and a few of the petals were missing. It looked like it hadn't been watered for days, and this darkness couldn't be good for the beautiful flower. Inspired by the sad subject, I picked it up and turned around, walking back the way I came.
I reached the restaurant just as my peers walked out, many of them frowning or rolling their eyes. Naruto came out last, talking animatedly with the timid waitress we'd met earlier.
"… really great, but it needs more taste," He was saying, gesturing with his hands. "Like I said before, leaving it in the water too long will make it sort of bland."
"A-arigatou, Naruto-kun," The waitress said enthusiastically, nodding and smiling weakly at him.
"No problem, Hikari-chan," Naruto replied joyfully, waving away her appreciative words. "On my vow, I will make the people of this village fans of ramen!" He pumped his fists in the air, and then he was dragged away by Shino, who captured the blonde in a horde of bugs.
"Goodbye, Naruto-kun! Goodbye, Shino-kun!" The waitress, Hikari, cried, waving at them as they walked away from the restaurant. "Bye, everyone else!" With that, she ducked back under the cloth.
"What were you two talking about, Naruto?" I asked, grinning as Shino finally let my teammate go.
He shrugged and smiled back at me. "Her ramen. It was good, but it was sort of bland. I simply gave her a few tips on how to make it better. I also told her she didn't have to be so shy." He threw a casual arm around an unsuspecting Hinata's shoulders, causing the girl to blush. "Kind of like how you used to be, Hinata-chan!"
Used to be? I thought with a grin, watching Hinata grin from ear to ear at Naruto.
"He nearly talked her ear off." Surprisingly, Shino's voice was somewhat anger-ridden, and I felt a chill go up and down my spine. I would hate to be the reason for his anger. Sure, Shino was a friend, but he was a scary friend.
"Aww, that's sweet! Shino's jealous!" Kiba teased, absolutely glowing with good natured joy as he danced around his teammate on his toes.
Shino glared at him, something that would make any normal person drop dead. Of course, Kiba wasn't normal. "I am not jealous. If anything, I pity the poor girl for having to listen to Naruto's meaningless chitchat."
Releasing Hinata from his grasp, Naruto began to dance around Shino as well. "You're just jealous because you can't get a sweet, shy and cute girl like Hinata or Hikari to pay attention to you! Haha!"
I patted Hinata on the back and reminded her to breathe as I laughed at the uproar my friends were making. Kiba and Naruto were still teasing Shino, and Lee was trying to stop the latter from sicking his bug army on their teammates. Watching them together, one would think we had been specifically chosen for such a mission because we were such good friends. They would think we were so close that we would selflessly support each other in the thick of battle, give our lives to protect each other.
The truth was, they would be right.
"Hey, Sakura, where did that come from?" Lee asked, finally noticing the sad-looking rose in my arms. We were walking back to the Nomura mansion, Lee, Hinata and myself between Kiba, Naruto and Shino to make sure the other two didn't start teasing the latter again.
It only took me a moment to think something up. "I saw someone across the street from the restaurant. She was trying to give this little flower away, and no one would even spare a passing glance. Finally she just sat it down and walked off, and I just couldn't stand to let it die. You know how I am with flowers."
"It looks like it's had a hard life," Hinata stated, frowning at the flower.
Kind of like Sasuke. "Yeah, I know. I think I can restore it."
"I dunno, it looks pretty bad," Naruto said, leaning around Hinata to get a good look at the sad plant.
"What do you know, Naruto?!" For the second time today, I whopped Naruto a good one.
"Ow, ow, owwww," Naruto whimpered, clutching the large bump that had sprouted out of his spiky hair. Hinata shrieked and hurried over to his side as I walked forward, oddly miffed by his comment. Naruto didn't know anything. I would bring this little rose back to life. I swore on it-- for now, consider this my nindo.
Well, that was chapter 8. Hope it wasn't too short for you all, I'm getting myself up out of a rut right now. XD Please tell me what you think!